Women in Turkey stand in solidarity with their Afghan sisters

Women in Turkey stand in solidarity with their Afghan sisters
Zakira Hekmat is the president of the Afghan Refugees Solidarity Association in Turkey. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 19 August 2021

Women in Turkey stand in solidarity with their Afghan sisters

Women in Turkey stand in solidarity with their Afghan sisters
  • Turkish campaigners call on the international community not to abandon women in Afghanistan to the mercy of the Taliban
  • ‘I do not believe the Taliban has changed. Many female activists and women in high-profile jobs … fear that their lives are at risk,’ expert says

ANKARA: Zakira Hekmat, president of the Afghan Refugees Solidarity Association in Turkey, said her nights have been sleepless since hearing that the civilian government in Afghanistan had fallen to the Taliban.

She fears this political change in her homeland will take the heaviest toll on educated women who had come to expect a bright future for themselves and all girls and women in the country.

Hekmat, 33, believes that some high-profile women will be in the fortunate position to be able to leave the country, but the majority of ordinary citizens will be forced to live under the Taliban regime and require help and support.

“At first, it will be difficult to reach out to all women in Afghanistan,” she told Arab News. “However it would be wise to start with specific segments of society, by providing scholarships for students at high school and encouraging them to finish their school studies and start university education.”

According to the latest UN data, women and children account for about 80 percent of displaced Afghans. Hekmat, who was born into an internally displaced family in the Jaghuri district of Ghazni province in Afghanistan, graduated from high school while living under Taliban rule. She briefly attended Kabul University before moving to Turkey on a scholarship to study medicine at Erciyes University in Kayseri and becoming a doctor.

“The Turkish government should also help university-age girls in Afghanistan through scholarships and help them leave the country and continue accomplishing their dreams in this way,” she said.

Hekmat is a well-known rights activist in Turkey, a country she now considers her home. In particular she campaigns for the rights of girls and women in Afghanistan. She is not alone; in recent days people from all walks of life in Turkey, across the political spectrum, have expressed solidarity with Afghan women and urged the international community not to abandon them to the mercy of the Taliban.

They fear that women will face great challenges under an oppressive regime that could once again strip women and girls of the rights they painstakingly reclaimed over the past two decades, especially in the realms of education and employment.

As the Afghan government fell and the Taliban took control of the country in recent days, hashtags such as “#TurkishWomenforAfghanWomen” and slogans such as “Be Their Voice” quickly began to trend on social media in Turkey.

Turkish group the Women’s Platform for Equality on Wednesday call on the international community to mobilize in support of Afghan women and share the responsibility for hosting the refugees from the country in a fair and responsible way.

“We consider that abandoning Afghanistan to the Taliban’s rule is as ruthless as the methods of the Taliban,” the group said. “Act now for Afghan women and Afghan people.”

Gulsum Kav, a campaigner for women’s rights and co-founder of the We Will Stop Femicide Platform, said: “Afghan women are never alone. We are the women of the world. We will absolutely get our freedom one day.”

Authorities in Ankara are currently in talks with all parties in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, but the extent to which they will be able to use political leverage to protect the rights of women and girls in the country remains unclear.

On Tuesday the Taliban pledged to respect women’s rights within the norms of Islamic law. However, memories of women largely being confined to their homes under the previous Taliban regime, and facing the threat of public execution, remain fresh in the minds of many.

Begum Basdas, a gender and migration scholar at Humboldt University in Berlin, shares the concerns raised by human rights organizations that have warned the world must not fall for the Taliban’s “charm offensive” and its claim to now support women’s rights.

“I do not believe that the Taliban has changed,” she told Arab News. “Many female activists and women in high-profile jobs such as judges, journalists, government posts, as well as teachers, fear that their lives are at risk.

“The Taliban claim that women will not be discriminated against, but only within the framework of Shariah. We have observed their interpretation of Islam in the past, and more recently since they started to gain power. There are reports of women and girls who are barred from schools, dismissed from their jobs and ordered not to appear in public spaces. Already their actions do not conform to their statements.”

Yet the world has also witnessed the immense strength and resilience of Afghan women, Basdas added.

“They are still on the streets reporting, filming, protesting and fighting against the Taliban,” she said. “Our task is not to repeat the past mistakes of the Western world and treat them merely as people to be ‘saved;’ we must stand with them in solidarity to protect their lives and rights in Afghanistan.”

Some prominent women have managed to leave the country, including Sahraa Karimi, a leading female filmmaker who thanked the Turkish government for helping her to get out of Kabul this week.

According to Basdas, all Afghan women who have fled to other countries must have access to effective asylum procedures and other other safe legal paths to resettlement in Europe and elsewhere.

“They should not face the risk of deportation ever,” she said. “I agree with the call to authorities in Turkey that instead of further military interventions, we must ensure all women, and everyone who needs protection, are evacuated from Afghanistan urgently.”

However, this potential wave of refugees from Afghanistan is already causing tensions to rise in domestic Turkish politics. On Wednesday the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party displayed a banner on its headquarters that read “Borders are our honor.” Hundreds of Afghan refugees have arrived in the country in recent weeks, resulting in public anger among some and calls for the government to boost border security by building walls.

“Human rights should not be used as political leverage but Turkey first must ensure that Afghans in Turkey are safe and have access to international protection procedures without the fear of deportation,” Basdas said.

She also noted that discriminatory comments about migrants and refugees must end, and that the introduction of effective migration policies that respond to the needs of local populations as well as the refugees can help to achieve this.

“Not just Turkey, the entire international community must stand to protect human rights in Afghanistan,” she added. “The EU’s call to the Taliban ‘to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law’ will not suffice.

“The actions of the West are partly to blame and so there should not be any negotiations with the Taliban that could endanger women’s rights. We should support Afghan women and show them that we are not just watching but taking action.”


Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days

Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days
Updated 6 sec ago

Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days

Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days
  • Migrants picked up by humanitarian group Sea-Watch, which now has more than 400 rescued people on its vessel
  • More than 49,000 migrants have reached Italian shores so far this year according to the country’s Ministry of Interior

ROME: Fifty migrants were rescued on Sunday and Monday by the Sea-Watch 3 vessel in the waters off the coast of Libya.

More than 400 people are now on the boat, according to German humanitarian organization Sea-Watch. It is patrolling the central Mediterranean rescuing people trying to reach the small Italian island of Lampedusa in small, crowded boats.

Meanwhile landings continue non-stop on the island. Three vessels with 52 Tunisians on board reportedly landed on Monday morning, and four boats containing 140 foreigners arrived the previous night. One boat, with 13 Tunisians aboard, managed to reach the shore without being intercepted by coast guard vessels.

“On Sunday we had 152 Tunisians arriving here in six different landings,” Lampedusa Mayor Salvatore Martello told Arab News, giving his latest official figures. “There are now 329 migrants in our facility, which can accommodate a maximum of 250 people.

“The prefecture of Agrigento ordered for them to be transferred to the quarantine ship GNV Atlas, which is moored one mile from the coast. We cannot carry on like this. The entire population here is under stress. We are left alone but we have no intention not to help how we can those who arrive here. But this has been going on for too long.”

Meanwhile, more than 100 migrants from Tunisia arrived over the weekend on the southern shores of the Italian island of Sardinia. They were detained by the Italian coast guard and by police.

“They were very dehydrated and tired as they have covered quite a long distance on a small vessel,” a spokesman for the coast guard in Cagliari told Arab News.

The journey to Sardinia from Tunisia is longer than to Lampedusa, and navigation in recent days has been difficult as a result of bad weather.

Sea-Watch said that its Seabird aircraft, which flies over the Mediterranean looking for vessels carrying migrants so that they can be rescued, also reported what it described as “illegal pushbacks operated by the so-called Libyan coast guard.”

Since 2014, nearly 23,000 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, according to the UN’s migration agency.

More than 49,000 migrants have reached Italian shores so far this year according to the country’s Ministry of Interior. This is almost double the number of people who arrived in the same period last year.


More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition

More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition
Updated 12 min 17 sec ago

More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition

More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition
  • Yemeni FM meets with chief of the International Organization for Migration’s mission for Yemen

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Monday that it carried out 38 operations targeting the Houthi militia in Abedia and the surrounding villages in the Yemeni governorate of Marib.
The coalition said more than 150 militia members were killed and 13 Houthi vehicles destroyed in the operations in the previous 24 hours.
The coalition said that “international organizations must assume their responsibilities toward the civilians (who have been) trapped in Abedia” for weeks.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia mounted a brutal offensive in February to take control of one of the last remaining government strongholds. The energy-rich region has served as a safe haven for internally displaced people fleeing the fighting since the conflict began in 2014.
The Arab coalition began hitting Houthi targets in Abedia last week following an escalation in the militia’s incursions.
This comes as Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak warned of the “dangerous repercussions” of the Houthis’ escalating offensive on civilians and displaced people in Marib governorate.
His comments came during a meeting with the chief of the International Organization for Migration’s mission for Yemen, Christa Rottensteiner.
Bin Mubarak said that the. Houthis’ military escalation “exacerbates the difficult humanitarian conditions of the displaced, especially in the Marib governorate, which is home to more than two million displaced people.”
He also warned that “the international community’s disregard for such practices unleashes the Houthis to commit more violence and violations against civilians, which compounds the displacement crisis, forces displacement of civilians, and increases their human suffering.”


Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing

Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing
Updated 18 October 2021

Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing

Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing
  • The suicide car bombing in the central Karradah district was the deadliest attack by a single bomber in the Iraqi capital after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion
  • Two Iraqi intelligence officials said the man identified as Ghazwan al-Zobai, an Iraqi, was detained during a complex operation

BAGHDAD: Iraq said Monday it has detained the mastermind behind a deadly 2016 bombing in a Baghdad shopping center, which killed around 300 people and wounded 250.
The suicide car bombing in the central Karradah district was the deadliest attack by a single bomber in the Iraqi capital after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Two Iraqi intelligence officials said the man identified as Ghazwan Al-Zobai, an Iraqi, was detained during a complex operation that was carried out with the cooperation of a neighboring country they did not name. He had been tracked by authorities for months.
They told The Associated Press that Al-Zobai was detained in an unidentified foreign country and transported to Iraq two days ago. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak of the operation on the record.
The 29-year-old Al-Zobai was an Al-Qaeda militant when he was imprisoned by the Americans in Iraq at Cropper prison until 2008, and then escaped from Abu Ghraib prison in 2013. He joined the Daesh group after that.
The officials said Al-Zobai plotted many attacks in Iraq, the most infamous of which was the 2016 bombing in Karrada in 2016. He operated under the Alias Abu Obaida.
At least 292 people died from the bombing, most of them from an ensuing fire that turned the Hadi shopping center into an inferno. The blaze was fed by a tinderbox of shops filled with clothing and oil-based perfumes for sale and lined with flammable panels.
Al-Zobai’s arrest came in the second such operation conducted by the Iraqi National Intelligence Service since Iraq’s federal elections Oct. 10.
Iraqi officials said they captured Sami Jasim, an IS leader last Monday in a similar operation abroad. Jasim had a $5 million bounty on his head from the US State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, which describes him as having been “instrumental in managing finances for IS terrorist operations.”


Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border

Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border
Updated 18 October 2021

Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border

Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border
  • Midhat Saleh, a well-known figure in Syria, was fatally shot Saturday at the Israeli border in the Golan Heights where he ran a government office
  • Syria said he was killed by Israeli sniper fire

DAMASCUS, Syria: A former Syrian lawmaker allegedly felled by Israeli sniper fire was laid to rest Monday in an official funeral attended by hundreds of people near Damascus.
Midhat Saleh, a well-known figure in Syria, was fatally shot Saturday in Ein el-Tineh, a village along the Israeli border in the Golan Heights where he ran a Syrian government office. Syria said he was killed by Israeli sniper fire. Israeli military and other officials declined to comment on the charge.
Israeli media, however, said Saleh had been assisting the Iranian military presence against Israel. If the Syrian claims are confirmed, it would mark the first time that Israeli snipers are known to have killed someone identified as an Iranian-linked target across the border.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed the area. Most of the world does not recognize the annexation, though the Trump administration declared the territory to be part of Israel.
On Monday, Saleh’s coffin, wrapped in a Syrian flag, was brought in an ambulance from the Mamdouh Abaza hospital in Qunetira to Jaramana, on the outskirts of Damascus, for burial at a Druze cemetery. Hundreds of people attended, in addition to senior officials and Druze clerics.
Saleh was born in Majdal Shams, in the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan, and was jailed several times by Israel, most recently for 12 years until 1997. He later moved to Syria, was elected to parliament in 1998 and served as an adviser to the government on the Golan issue.
Saleh’s son, Golan, a 17-year-old student, said that his father has always told him that the territory would return to Syria.
“I am proud that my father was martyred,” he said.


Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic

Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic
Updated 18 October 2021

Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic

Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic
  • Extreme poverty in Egypt (the percentage of people who cannot secure their food needs) decreased nationwide

CAIRO: Egypt’s poverty rate has fallen to the lowest level in 20 years, according to data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.

The agency said that poverty rates in Egypt fell to 29.7 percent during the 2019-2020 fiscal year — a decline of 2.8 percent from the 32.5 percent recorded in 2017-2018. It added that this reflects the success of the country in striving for social justice in conjunction with economic reforms implemented by the state.

The agency said that extreme poverty in Egypt (the percentage of people who cannot secure their food needs) decreased nationwide to 4.5 percent in 2019-2020, down from 6.2 percent in 2017-2018.

The agency noted a correlation between growing family sizes and financial insecurity, saying: “The increase in the size of the family is a cause and a consequence of poverty. At the same time, it is a result of poor families not having sufficient social protection and therefore resorting to having more children for social protection when old or ill as a source of income.”

CAPMAS said that 80.6 percent of individuals who live in families with 10 or more members are poor, and that 48.1 percent of individuals who live in families with 6-7 members are also poor, compared to 7.5 percent of families with fewer than four members.

The agency indicated that education levels are the most relevant indicator of poverty, as poverty rates decrease as the level of education rises among parts of the population.

The percentage of poor among Egyptians with no formal education reached 35.6 percent in 2019-2020, compared to 9.4 percent for university graduates.

CAPMAS said that the Egyptian state is “making a lot of efforts” to protect the poor with the aim of improving the quality of life of citizens.

Social programs launched by the Egyptian government form the cornerstone Egypt’s Vision for Sustainable Development 2030.

The agency said that one of the most important programs is the national project for the development of Egyptian rural villages, which aims to improve living standards, build infrastructure, support people with disabilities and boost urban services.

The CAPMAS results came as the International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for the growth of the Egyptian economy during 2021, despite lowering estimates for the global economy.